Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Great Lost Singles of The 90s

As the latest in our continuing series, we now offer Urge Overkill's "Sister Havana."



An utterly fab song, to be sure, but it does kind of make you wonder just what was in the water that caused this estimable but thoroughly conventional hard rock band to be classified at any time as "alternative."

7 comments:

Cleveland Bob said...

Cool song. Never ever heard it before.

Maybe it's just me projecting, but that bass player reminded me a lot of Heath Ledger. Huh.

He was great in The Lords of Dogtown.

TJWood said...

An utterly fab song, to be sure, but it does kind of make you wonder just what was in the water that caused this estimable but thoroughly conventional hard rock band to be classified at any time as "alternative."

Well, I don't think it was so much what was in the water as it was what "alternative" had come to be defined by 1994, the year of this song. The same description you give to Urge Overkill can be given to two of the kingpins of the American alternative scene: Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins. I remember an article in Musician magazine in which some programmers at alternative radio stations were initially reluctant to play these types of bands because they were so conventional, but once their fellow modern rock stations started playing them they started giving in. The lines between mainstream and alternative just got more blurred from there and by the late '90's bands like Third Eye Blind and even Matchbox 20 getting airplay on alternative rock stations.

I would rate this as one of my favorite songs of the '90's, but, even though Urge Overkill had a very successful cover of a Neil Diamond song on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, they never were really able to provide a follow up for this song. From what I remember, drug problems ended up derailing and eventually breaking up the band. Familiar story, unfortunately.

steve simels said...

Speaking of Pearl Jam, I remember reading an interview with the guitar player in MUSICIAN magazine where he said that Pearl Jam were the first band in Seattle to do a song in open-D tuning.

He said it like it was some kind of major innovation/musical breakthrough and that they deserved their success as a result. I was stunned...

TJWood said...

That sent me scurrying to all those back issues of MUSICIAN from the early - mid '90's I've always neglected to throw away to find that quote. The guitar player you're referring to is likely Stone Gossard, who often uses alternate tunings, open-D included. PJ's other guitarist, Mike McCready, uses almost exclusively standard tuning. Anyway, I searched the articles on Pearl Jam I have, one of which is an extensive interview with Gossard (5/95) and do not see that quote in any of the those articles. There is a quote in a 7/92 MUSICIAN story on Pearl Jam by Gossard that two songs on their debut album Ten ("Even Flow" and "Oceans") are in open-D, but no quote indicating they were the first to use it. I stopped receiving MUSICIAN after 1996, so the interview you're referencing might have come from later than that. Do you remember what year that interview was?

steve simels said...

TJW:

It's been a zillion years -- my memory may be faulty.....

Although I think it's very cool you've got back issues of Musician as an archive. Too bad they folded before all their stuff could be on-line....

Anonymous said...

If I'm ever in a rock video, I want to ride in one of those swamp boats with the big fan in back. Nice touch.

I liked 'Positive Bleeding,' which was the follow-up, very much, and it had a great video too.

Nash Kato is a great rock & roll name.

I bought that album back in the day. It didn't hold together very well; I believe it's in a box in the basement.

Noam Sane

Mark said...

Urge Overkill were considered alternative because (a) they dressed funny in an ironic manner, (b) they once recorded for Touch & Go, and (c) they used to be friends with Steve Albini, though that was just a memory by the time they cut "Sister Havana."

Still, great song and a fine band. Too bad about what happened after Saturation.